Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 11, Issue 37;   September 14, 2011:

Telephonic Deceptions: I

by

People have been deceiving each other at work since the invention of work. Nowadays, with telephones ever-present, telephonic deceptions are becoming more creative. Here's Part I of a handy guide for telephonic self-defense.
The Garden Tiger moth, Arctia caja

The Garden Tiger moth (Arctia caja). To avoid predation by bats, this moth has a furry body that absorbs sound, including the sound of the bat sonar. But this moth takes a further step: it emits clicks that jam bat sonar. In effect, the Garden Tiger moth deceives the bat by aggressive counter-measures. Its approach is analogous to the deception tactics humans use to deceive each other using telephones, in that both the moth and the human send intentionally confusing signals. Bats and moths have been engaged in this sensory "arms race" for millions of years. Humans have been engaged in telephonic deception for less than 100 years. It's reasonable to suppose that human deception tactics will eventually become far more sophisticated than they now are. View a video of bat/moth interactions.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

People who suddenly reach into a pocket or purse and pull out a phone to answer it might not actually be doing what they appear to be doing. Maybe they just don't want to talk to you.

According to a study entitled, "Americans and their cell phones," by Pew Research, released August 15, among U.S. adults surveyed, 13% acknowledge having used their cell phones at least once in the past 30 days to avoid interacting with someone. I suspect that percentage would have been much greater if the survey had included other motivations, such as wanting to appear to be important or busy, showing off a new high-status phone, wanting to move to a more private setting where one is less likely to be observed, or any of dozens of other motivations.

Since deceivers are not always clever enough to pull off their deceptions, you can sometimes detect the deception if you're aware of the more common mistakes they make. For example, a typical error associated with the I'm-answering-my-phone ploy described above is forgetting to disable the ring tone. Nothing looks sillier than talking into a cell phone that suddenly begins to ring. When you see this happen, it's probable that a deception was underway. And if you suspect this deception, you can test your conjecture by calling the person on your phone, if you have their number. If you hear the physical phone ring, then it wasn't engaged.

Here is Part I of a little catalog of examples of deceptions involving the telephone, and some methods for detecting them.

Circumventing personal cell phone bans
When using personal cell phones is banned at work, some use this ploy: Make the call, put the cell phone on speaker or use a blue tooth earpiece, then pick up the desk phone without making a call on it, and continue the conversation on the cell phone. They then appear to be speaking on the desk phone.
A typical mistake is to forget to warn, or fail to warn, the called party that the cell phone is on speaker.
Phone borrowers
Someone If you need an excuse to leave a
meeting early, having an actual
call come in on your phone
is usually good enough
who wants to borrow your phone to make a call might actually make a call, but they might also want to have a look at your recent calls.
Borrowers rarely forget that you can watch what they do. Lending someone your phone is not a good idea, but at least you'll know what number they called.
Faking incoming calls
If you need an excuse to leave a meeting early, having an actual call come in on your phone is usually good enough. With a scripting language like AppleScript, and a Skype account, you can easily arrange it.
Common mistake: forgetting to blank the screen and mute the sound of the computer that runs the script. Anyone passing by, with enough knowledge, can easily figure out what's happening.

We'll explore a few more tactics, and some serious security concerns, next time.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Telephonic Deceptions: II  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenEQuetChPjwYBDxmgner@ChacxXTxBssoFmfDfMugoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

A 1940s-era trap fishing boatNasty Questions: II
In meetings, telemeetings, and email we sometimes ask questions that aren't intended to elicit information. Rather, they're indirect attacks intended to advance the questioner's political agenda. Here's part two of a catalog of some favorite tactics.
George Washington Crossing the DelawareThe Advantages of Political Attack: II
In workplace politics, attackers are often surprisingly successful with even the flimsiest assertions. Often, they prevail, in part, because they can choose the time and venue for their attacks. They also have the advantage of preparation. How can targets respond effectively?
1988 Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman celebrating his eightieth birthdayPolitical Framing: Strategies
In organizational politics, one class of toxic tactics is framing — accusing a group or individual by offering interpretations of their actions to knowingly and falsely make them seem responsible for reprehensible or negligent acts. Here are some strategies framers use.
The Dalles of the St. Croix RiverThe Politics of the Critical Path: II
The Critical Path of a project is the sequence of dependent tasks that determine the earliest completion date of the effort. We don't usually consider tasks that are already complete, but they, too, can experience the unique politics of the critical path.
David Addington, John Yoo, and Chris Schroeder testify before the U.S. House Judiciary CommitteeKinds of Organizational Authority: the Formal
A clear understanding of Power, Authority, and Influence depends on familiarity with the kinds of authority found in organizations. Here's Part I of a little catalog of authority classes.

See also Workplace Politics and Ethics at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

An exit signComing January 19: Comply, Resist, or Exploit?
When we encounter obstacles, we have choices about how we deal with them. Generally, we can comply, we can resist, or sometimes, we can find ways to use the obstacles — to exploit them — to advance to our objectives. The pandemic provides two examples. Available here and by RSS on January 19.
The iconic image of cyber code, as popularized in the film The MatrixAnd on January 26: Cyber Rumors in Organizations
Rumor management practices in organizations haven't kept up with rumor propagation technology. Rumors that propagate by digital means — cyber rumors — have longer lifetimes, spread faster, are more credible, and are better able to reinforce each other. Available here and by RSS on January 26.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenEQuetChPjwYBDxmgner@ChacxXTxBssoFmfDfMugoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!

Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.